Sitting in on a Brodsky rehearsal

First-year viola-player and Music Scholar, Amy Wharton, reflects on a recent Brodsky Quartet rehearsal which she was lucky enough to see…


I have had the immense pleasure this year of founding the University String Quartet along with Jean-Marc Grussenmeyer, Melissa Regan and Aisha Bové. We have been rehearsing since December and are hoping to perform in the Summer Music Week this year.

The Director of Music told us earlier this year that the Brodsky Quartet, a famous string quartet, would be performing in the Gulbenkian in March, and that we may have the possibility of tickets and even seeing the rehearsal. Of course, we were eager to do so as it is great experience to watch such a well-established professional quartet.

Amy Wharton (centre) and members of the University String Quartet with the Brodskys

The rehearsal was an interesting experience, particularly how they were able to give off so much energy whilst sitting down. The viola player literally leapt out of his seat during particularly loud notes, something that I intend to absorb into my own playing. Something that Jean-Marc commented on was the lack of verbal communication (relative to our own rehearsals); they were extremely focused and all the players were quite assertive with the music, suggesting stylistic changes (particularly the viola once more).

During the concert the violins and viola stood whilst the cello was raised on a platform, which resembled a conductors platform. I thought this was a very clever layout as it allowed for the best playing without isolating the cellist. The energy in the rehearsal was nothing compared to the concert, particularly the first violinist that was able to switch between fast, even violent, bow strokes to the most smooth and quiet for Gershwin’s Lullaby. I don’t think I have ever been so absorbed in the music during a concert as I was with the Brodsky’s, and it really helped that one of the musicians gave an introduction so the audience was able to follow the narrative with the music. Lullaby was particularly effective; it contained the most beautiful of melodies (I would like to add that this made Aisha cry!) and ended with humour. The Viennese waltz also particularly stood out for me, as it was such a complicated piece but was performed brilliantly.

Overall this was a wonderful experience for us and I am extremely grateful for the Brodsky’s visiting and for Sue allowing us to see them, and I can only hope that one day an aspiring musician is writing this about our own string quartet.

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